The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) congratulates Prof. Anton Harber and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki for their well-deserved victory in their long battle for justice. The pair today won the defamation case against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Judge LT Modiba of the Gauteng Local Division High Court in Johannesburg ordered the EFF and its National Spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlonzi to apologise for calling them spies, and also ordered that they pay them each R40 000 in damages.
SANEF has always held the view that labelling of journalists as members of ‘Stratcom’ – which was a notorious propaganda and disinformation unit of the security police unit of the Apartheid era – was dangerous and demeaning.
The EFF peddled and perpetuated these statements on social media almost two years ago following the publication of a documentary on the Huffington Post in which the late Winnie Madikizela Mandela makes these unsubstantiated claims.
The Huffington Post subsequently apologised.
Today the court also interdicted the EFF from making such claims about Harber and Gqubule-Mbeki in future, with the judge further declaring that the allegations made about Harber and Gqubule-Mbeki in the EFF statements and twitter accounts are defamatory and false.
“It is declared that the respondents’ publication of the statements was and continues to be unlawful. The respondents are ordered to remove the statements within 24 hours of the granting of this order from all their media platforms including the first respondents’ (EFF) website and the second respondents’ (Ndlozi) Twitter account,” Judge Modiba stated.
“The respondents are ordered, within 24 hours of the granting of this order, to publish a notice on all their media platforms, on which the statements had been published, in which they unconditionally retract and apologise for the allegations made about the applicants in the statements.”
“The respondents are interdicted from publishing any statement that says or implies that the applicants worked for or collaborated with the apartheid government,” Judge Modiba concluded.
SANEF believes that journalists should remain vigilant and continue fact-checking when dealing with unsubstantiated and untested claims.
SANEF also wishes to remind all political formations and interest groups to use the services of the Press Ombuds’ office and the Press Council when feeling aggrieved or unfairly treated by the press. It is better to have an incorrect report properly investigated and sanctions imposed than resorting to social media attacks on journalists and creating a toxic atmosphere of conspiracy-mongering and hatemongering towards the journalists and media in general.
Note for Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research, education and training programmes.
For more information contact
- Katy Katopodis – Acting SANEF Chairperson, (082) 805-7022
- Mary Papayya – Acting SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957
- Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor 0825713334
- Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (073) 404-1415
- Janet Heard – SANEF Western Cape SANEF Convenor, 0780419528
- Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Acting Gauteng Regional Convenor 083 582 1734
- Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – 082 926 6404
Statement on court victory: Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki and Anton Harber vs EFF and others.
24 January 2020
Judge LT Modiba of the South Gauteng High Court this morning ordered the EFF and its leaders to withdraw their statements about the two of us, apologise within 24 hours and pay damages. She declared the allegations linking us to Stratcom as untrue and unlawful.
The judgement is a victory for truth. It will be welcomed by all of those who want to see public figures held accountable for making unsubstantiated and defamatory attacks on journalists and other.
These statements were not just an attack on us as individuals, but an onslaught on our capacity as journalists to do our work unhindered. The ruling is a victory for journalism and journalists.